Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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SIBLEY, John Langdon, librarian, born in Union, Maine. 29 December, 1804; died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 9 December, 1885. He was graduated at Harvard in 1825, and entered the divinity-school. While he was in college much of his time was spent in working in the library, and he was assistant librarian m the divinity-school in 1825-'6. In 1829 he was ordained pastor of the first church in Stow, Massachusetts, where he remained four years. From 1833 till 1841 he was engaged in literary work in Cambridge, and during part of this period he was editor and proprietor of the "American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge." When Gore hall, the present library building of Harvard, was opened in 1841, Mr. Sibley was appointed assistant librarian under Dr. Thaddeus William Harris. On the latter's death in 1856, Mr. Sibley was appointed librarian, which post he held for twenty-one years, until 1877, when, owing to his age and the failure of his sight, he was retired from active work, and made librarian emeritus. Owing to his persistent requests for all kinds of printed matter, and his earnest appeals for pecuniary aid, the number of volumes increased from 41,000 in 1841 to 164,000 volumes, and almost as many pamphlets, in 1877, and its permanent fund from $5,000 to $170,000 in the same period. From 1839 till his retirement he was the editor of the triennial and quinquennial catalogues. He first inserted obituary dates in the triennial of 1845, and from 1849 solicited and preserved biographical notes of the graduates. After 1860 he inserted in the triennials his "Appeal to Graduates and Others" for biographical sketches, giving a list of questions for guidance in their preparation. From 1850 till 1870 he also edited the annual catalogues. Ire was indefatigable in his quest for biographical information and exact dates, and had the reverence of a Chinaman for scraps of paper, utilizing odds and ends, especially the blank insides of envelopes, upon which many of his most valuable memoranda were made. These notes, accumulated during more than half a century, together with the letters that he received during about forty years, were chronologically arranged and bound, and his very large collection of newspaper-cuttings relating to graduates was carefully indexed and arranged in scrap-books. For thirty-seven years he led the singing of the 78th Psalm at the commencement dinner. Bowdoin conferred upon him the honorary degree of A. M. in 1856. He was a fellow of the American academy of arts and sciences, and from 1846 art active member of the Massachusetts historical society, and he was also a member of other historical societies. In remembrance of the aid that he had received as a student from the charity fund of Phillips Exeter academy, he began in 1862 a series of gifts to that institution, which amounted at the time of his death to more than $39,000, the income from which is to be used for the support of meritorious and needy students. He was not known as the donor until the dedication of the new academy building in 1872. He published "Index to the Writings of George Washington" (Boston, 1837)" " History of the Town of Union, Maine" (1851); "Index to the Works of John Adams" (1853); and "Notices of the Triennial and Annual Catalogues of Harvard University, with a Reprint of the Catalogues of 1674, 1682, and 1700" (1865). His last and greatest work, upon which he had spent nearly forty years of constant research and unremitting labor, is "Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University," three volumes of which have been published (1873-'85). In the preface to his third volume, written nine months before his death, he says: "I have passed my eightieth birthday, and have expended such working power as remained to me in the volume now given to the public. I can do no more. But the work will be continued by younger hands, into which will pass a large mass of materials--the accumulated collections of more than half a century."
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